NEWSLETTER – AUGUST 2000

Dear Member,

It is some time now since we issued a newsletter. Other events and more pressing issues have I am afraid taken precedence.

Nevertheless a lot has been happening and I wanted to take this opportunity of updating you on what we have been doing over the last few months.

Uppermill Square

In January we held a joint meeting with the Uppermill Residents Association at which David Robinson of Oldham MB Planning Department gave a presentation on the plans for the renovating the Square in Uppermill. The issue of the condition of Uppermill Square and the planning permission granted for the building of the Commercial Hotel beer garden wall have been a cause of growing concern for us over the last three years. Apart from the loss of an important public space, and the precedence this creates for other village centres, the enclosure of this area highlights an increasing unwelcome trend to sub-urbanisation in Saddleworth’s. We have therefore seen this as an important test case on the maintenance of Saddleworth’s distinctive character and we have pressed Oldham MBC for a satisfactory resolution of the apparent impasse that would restore the integrity of the Square.

Prior to this meeting I had written on behalf of the Civic Trust to Philip Barrett, Director of Environmental Services at Oldham MBC with a number of comments and suggestions on the published plans. I expressed concern at the intention of retaining the beer garden enclosure as part of the restoration plans and I also summarised a number of specific suggestions on the style of the restorations which we had made earlier during the consultative exercise leading up to publication of the plans.

We suggested the removal of the bus lay-byes and shelters in the Square with better use being made of the bus turn-round 50 yards away. We strongly recommended retention of the existing trees and urged that street lighting should be sympathetic with the character of the Square. We asked that consideration should be given to the use of reclaimed material for resurfacing; matching those already present, in preference to wholesale replacement with new machine cut stone and flags. As a millennium project we suggested that the decorative victorian lamp standard that once stood in front of the methodist church should be restored (the plinth still exists in the King George V playing fields). Finally, we asked whether a traditional red telephone box could not be returned in place of the present modern design (these have been retained in most of the other Saddleworth villages to great effect).

The tone of the meeting was positive and a lively discussion ensued. I reiterated some of our concerns and suggestions. Our views on the beer garden wall and bus lay-byes were apparently widely shared by those present. Some participants in the discussion also made the point that the new scheme appeared to formalise a change in its traditional character of the Square and its loss as an open space.

After the meeting we were dismayed to read in the Oldham Chronicle that the meeting had apparently welcomed the inclusion of the beer garden enclosures in the restoration proposals. I felt compelled to write to the Chronicle on behalf of the Civic Trust to correct such a blatant misrepresentation of the mood of the meeting. The letter was also signed by thirty five of the seventy or so people present.

Further correspondence took place over the next few weeks with the members of the Environmental Services Committee of Oldham Council and with English Heritage who had offered a grant of 90,000 towards the work. In each case we made the same points that we had expressed previously. Following our overtures and those from other concerned local parties and groups, English Heritage wrote to Mr Barrett in March fully supporting the line the Civic Trust had taken.

Specifically, the letter indicated that English Heritage "agree(d) with the objectors that the wall erected outside of the Commercial Inn is out of keeping with the character of the Conservation area and that it detrimentally effects the setting of the listed building". It went on to say "we do not object to the principle of the space being used for outdoor amenity in connection with the public house, but on removal of the wall, we would expect the original gradient of the lands to be restored, natural stone setts to be reinstated and the open public nature of the Square to be maintained. We would expect the council to reinstate as far as practicable the original traditional streetscape." Other points made in the letter were that reclaimed cobbles and natural yorkstone flags (preferably reclaimed) should be used and street lighting should be discrete. The letter went on to say that English Heritage "would wish to terminate the ....contract at Uppermill if the backing of local people to plans for the square is not demonstarted by the end of June".

Following this I wrote again to all members of the Environmental Services Committee urging them to "use your influence with the officers of the Council by asking them to review the present proposals and to take on board the English Heritage comments....and urging "an early agreement".

The deadline, although no doubt intended by English Heritage as a positive way of resolving an impasses, was interpreted by many, including the Oldham Chronicle in an editorial comment, to imply that the proposed unsatisfactory Oldham plans should be accepted without further criticism if the restoration opportunity was not to be lost for ever. I therefore wrote again to English Heritage on behalf of the Civic Trust indicating that "the overwhelming opinion in Saddleworth is a desire to see the whole of the Square renovated at the earliest possible opportunity but at the same time a widely held view is that the beer garden wall should be removed and the whole of the Square returned once again to public use".

With a change of leadership on Oldham Council, a number of similar letters to English Heritage in support of the restoration scheme going ahead, and with a wish by the Officers of Oldham Council to see a rapid resolution of what had become a thorny problem for them, some movement finally took place. At the end of June, representatives of Saddleworth Civic Trust were invited to meet with English Heritage and Mr Barrett and other officers of Oldham Council to discuss a way forward. After a very positive meeting at which all present indicated a desire to see the scheme go ahead without delay, and English Heritage reiterating the line they had taken earlier, including their desire to see the beer garden wall removed, Saddleworth Civic Trust were invited by Mr Barrett to make a submission on what we would like to see in the planned restoration.

A written report, with detailed suggestions amplifying the points made earlier, and illustrated with photographs of the surviving original features, together with historic photographs, was submitted to both Mr Barrett’s department and English Heritage.

New plans were produced shortly afterwards by Oldham MB which incorporated many of the features we had suggested. These included the retention and repair of all surving original features in the Square, the paving of the market stall area in reclaimed stone setts and a restoration of the original setts in front of the Methodist Church. Asphalt pavements will be replaced by Yorkshire stone flags. The victorian lamp standard base will be restored to its original place and a victorian style lamp installed. A double kerb arrangement will be introduced in front of the Commercial Inn to prevent pavement parking and to facilitate a levelling of this area and resurfacing with traditional setts at some future date.

Following approval of the revised scheme by English Heritage, the proposals were approved at the July Environmental Services Committee. It was also agreed that the officers should attempt to negotiate with the landlord of the Commercial Hotel a removal of the beer garden enclosure so that this part of the Square could also be restored as a Phase II to the scheme. As part of such an agreement Oldham MBC would adopt this area as Highway (footway) and consider the granting of a license to the Commercial Inn for continued use of this area by their customers.

This is a very satisfactory outcome as far as we are concerned. It has never been our aim to prevent the use of this part of the Square by the public for their enjoyment. We have been concerned however at the beer garden wall, the resulting loss of public space, the precedent this sets, and the sub-urbanisation of Uppermill that the enclosure and the earlier scheme promoted. The new proposals represent a win - win for all concerned . If they are carefully and sensitively executed we can look forward to a village centre all can be proud of. Also, hopefully, an important precedent will have been set for future restoration activity in Saddleworth conservation areas.

Oldham Unitary Development Plan Review 2001 - 2016

In May we had a presentation from Les Harris of Oldham MBC on the UDP review process and the consultative exercise underway across the borough. The review will lead to the publication of the UDP for 2001 – 2016.

After an interesting discussion with Mr Harris of some of the issues facing Saddleworth we decided that the Saddleworth Civic Trust should make a written input and a task force composed of seven members of the committee met to draft this. An eight page submission resulted covering industry business and tourism, housing, transport, natural resources, land resources, shopping & town and district centres, recreation and open space, and built heritage and design of new developments.

Highlights of our submission are the need to control growth in Saddleworth, the impact of extensive sub-urban housing development on the character of our villages, the importance of preserving the pennine landscape, the need for better planning controls in protecting the conservation areas, listed and historic buildings and the potential Saddleworth offers for intelligent development as a tourist area.

Please let me know if you would like a copy of the Civic Trust submission.

Lectures

At our AGM we were treated to a highly informative talk by Alan Petford on the Architecture of Church and Chapel in Saddleworth. As with all Alan’s talks, we also enjoyed some spectacular slide photography; images of some of the stained glass around Saddleworth were particularly memorable.

In March Peter Beamish, Architect/Planner in Peak District National Park Authority gave us an excellent and well illustrated talk on Building Conservation in the National Park. Examples of good and bad restoration work were contrasted and Mr Beamish described some recent major restoration schemes within the Park.

After David Robinson’s presentation in January on the Uppermill Square Renovation Plans we were hoping that David would be able to talk to us again in June about the Character Appraisal exercise underway on the New Delph & Ladhill Lane Conservation Areas . This was planned as a joint meeting with the Grasscroft & Greenfield Residents Association. Unfortunately, due to other activities within Oldham MBC the Character Appraisal has been delayed and now looks as though it will not be completed until next year. Consequently, we decided to postpone David’s talk until next year. Instead we enjoyed and extremely enlightening & informative lecture on Renewable Energy from Alan Price, who is a local Environmental Consultant. Alan also spoke to us last year on Pond Conservation in Saddleworth. The meeting was well attended and a spirited discussion followed about the pros and cons of wind farms and other controversial schemes.

We had planned a Summer Trip last month to Halifax to see the recent renovation of the People’s Park there and to avail ourselves of a guided tour round Shibden Hall, Halifax Parish Church and All Saints Church, Haley Hill. Unfortunately, due to a combination of bad publicity and holidays we were not able to muster a quorum and the trip had to be cancelled. We hope to reschedule this though at some future date.

Other Happenings

Just in time for the Saddleworth Parish Council’s chairman’s ball, a series of photographs from committee member Freda Millett’s book ‘Saddleworth & Its People’ were hung in the bar area of the recently beautifully renovated Civic Hall. We received a letter of thanks from the Parish Council for taking this initiative and organising the display at short notice.

We are also planning to re-publish John Smith’s book ‘Saddleworth Buildings’ This book is the definitive work on Saddleworth vernacular architecture and has regrettably been out of print now for some time. New material is planned as well as a colour cover. We are currently investigating ways of financing the project and seeking suitable publishing partners. More on this later.

Committee Changes

Due to other pressures, Alan Chorlton our Secretary and Frank Settle our Treasurer have regrettably had to tender their resignations. Fortunately Lorna Gartside and Ken Booth have stepped into the breach. Anne Plackett and John Grayson have also been co-opted on to the committee. I would like to thank Alan and Frank for all their past efforts and Lorna and Ken for volunteering to help out at short notice.

Future Events

Following Alan Petford’s successful talk last year at our AGM he will be speaking again at our next meeting on September 7th. The subject "The Architecture of Industry in Saddleworth" complements his previous lecture on Saddleworth Church Architecture and his recent highly polular WEA class on the history of the textile industry in Saddleworth. The meeting is a joint meeting with the Saddleworth Historical Society and is also this year’s Bernard Barnes Memorial Lecture. Once again the lecture promises to be an event not to be missed. Time 7.30 pm. Saddlerworth Museum, Uppermill.

AGM

The AGM is December 7th when we hope to have a speaker from English Heritage. Nominations for the committee to me please before this date.

Membership Subscriptions

Ken Booth and Lorna Gartside are currenty reviewing our membership lists. If you have not already done so please send your subscription (5) for this year to Lorna Gartside, Hollingreave Farm, Holly Grove, Dobcross, Saddleworth, OL3 5AA. Also if you have a standing order please update it to reflect the current subscription rate.

 

That’s all for now,

 

 Mike

 

 

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